Press Release

10/31/07: Two California composers win tenth annual “Welcome Christmas! Carol Contest”

American Composers Forum, VocalEssence announce winners of tenth annual Welcome Christmas! Carol Contest

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (October 31, 2007) – VocalEssence and the American Composers Forum are pleased to announce the two winners of the 10th annual Welcome Christmas! Carol Contest. This year, the contest sought new carols for chorus and celesta, a keyboard instrument that produces the familiar bell-like tones heard in Tschaikovsky’s "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies." Carols composed by Matthew Brown (Los Angeles, CA) and Stephen Main (San Francisco, CA) were selected from a total of 118 scores received from 32 states. In addition to having their works premiered by VocalEssence at the 2007 Welcome Christmas! concerts, each composer will receive a prize of $1,000.

Matthew Brown (b. 1978) composed "Sweet Was the Song," a lullaby based on a medieval English text. Brown states, "My work has been heavily influenced by my love of medieval music, especially the folk music of that time. I used the celesta as a shimmering background, occasionally commenting on and echoing the vocal lines." Matthew is currently pursuing a DMA in music composition at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music. He holds a master’s degree in composition from USC and a BA in composition from Pepperdine University, and is a professional tenor soloist and music director in several San Fernando Valley churches. He will attend the carol premieres in Minneapolis over the weekend of December 8 and 9.

"The Darkest Midnight in December," by Stephen Main (b. 1963), is a setting of a carol text from a poem by Fr. William Devereux, originally published in 1728. The mood of the carol is similar to that of "Greensleeves" — a lullaby in a minor mode. The final verse moves to a major key while the celesta plays a continuous line of arpeggios throughout the carol. Stephen Main studied organ, theory and composition at the Choate School, then went on to major in music and religious studies at Oberlin College and earn a Ph.D. in religious philosophy from the University of Chicago. He is now music director at Piedmont Community Church in the San Francisco Bay area. He will attend the Welcome Christmas concert at Normandale Lutheran Church on Dec. 8.

The new carols for 2007 will be premiered at the VocalEssence Welcome Christmas! concerts at Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater, MN (Dec. 1), Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis (Dec. 2 and 9) and Normandale Lutheran Church in Edina, MN (Dec. 8). For ticket information, call 612-624-2345 or visit Welcome Christmas! will be recorded by Minnesota Public Radio for national distribution in 2008 by American Public Media.

For additional press information, contact Katryn Conlin, 612-547-1459 or